Always wanted to see the capital of Wales but always ended up just drive pass it on the M4. The closest I ever got to the actual city centre was to visit the local Ikea store while I was still in the process of furnishing my small flat in Haverfordwest.
Here are some more detailed instructions for those who might want to see it also but don’t know how to get there. As I came from the west I took the A4232 from the M4 and got off going toward Penarth and Penarth Marina . There is parking available at the south end of the Barrage.
The only problem is that it is not that cheap. There is a P+R (Park and Ride ) available close to the A4232 for £3 while at the south Barrage park it is £0.50 per hour. However, once there you can have a look at how the barrage locks work. After that you can take a walk on the barrage across the bay to Cardiff bay and Mermaid Quay . The other option is to walk to the inner side of the bay next to the parking lot and take the water bus to Mermaid Quay. A return ticket will cost you £5. As I had just missed the boat I decided to take a walk but you have to keep in mind the barrage is in operation and the locks that they use to get the boats in and out of Cardiff bay seem to be very busy. There are 3 locks at the barrage and once one of the bridges goes up you cannot cross. All you can do is wait.
Once you get to the other side of the barrage you will see parts of the old docks that now sit there, abandoned. Just as you enter Mermaid Quay you will see the Norwegian church that was built in 1868 for the use of the Norwegian community in Cardiff. Today it is not used as a church anymore but has been converted into an arts centre and café.
The red dragon will lead the way / Y ddraig goch ddyry cychwyn
The Cardiff bay and Marmaid Quay offers a large variety of restaurants and cafés as well as some interesting architecture like the Welsh National assembly building, The Pierhead building… In fear of being an obvious geeky tourist I hesitated from taking photos of every single building.
The Cardiff Quay is a way out of the Cardiff city centre so it will take a bus or even better the Aquabus that takes you up the river Taff right to Cardiff castle and The Millenium Stadium. The trip takes just under half an hour. As the Aquabus rides along the Taff river you get a good view of the Millenium Stadium which offers tours of the place, just remember to go to the other side, to Westgate street. I found that only after I came home and researched it on the internet :-(
After going round the city centre I stumbled upon a sushi bar Zushi (now closed) and gave it a try, never been to one of these places and always wanted to see what sushi was all about. Was a bit confused by the conveyor belt and what exactly each dish was - the menu wasn’t to helpful either as it only told you what price was associated with a particular plate colour. So I played it safe and ordered noodles from the menu - expecting a small overpriced dish of noodles and salmon but getting something that looked more like a huge salad bowl, like the one I have at home. There was also a strange wooden ladle in it. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was for: did they want to employ me and have the rest of the customers served with my lunch?? At the end I couldn’t resist myself and I had to ask the waiter - it is apparently to sip the stir the soup and noodles :-P
After lunch I decided to head home. I was warned about walking the streets from the city centre to the bay so I opted in for a bus which, again, brought me to a steep learning curve situation where I was rather puzzled what to do next after I paid the driver. I kept on expecting the ticket to appear out of the box I just shoved some coins in, only to be directed by a patience-loosing bus driver that I had to take the ticket out of a different box - how was I supposed to know that??!! I am still a tourist you know :-( To top my ignorance I asked a rather silly question which I found quite reasonable at the time - I asked the driver how will I know if it is the the right bus stop I have to get off. The driver smirked and told me that it will be the last stop of the route. - Well, again, how was I supposed to know that either. I come from Ljubljana where we on certain routes, like the no. 7 have bus routes that have the end bus stop somwehere else in relation to where the bus stops to go back the other way. Then, as another example, there is the number 2 route that is actually a circular route. So there :-)
I came back to Mermaid Quay only to realise I would have to wait over half an hour for the water bus to the south barrage so I decided to walk again - it was, anyway, a nice and sunny afternoon.
Great trip, would advise it to anybody. I didn’t get to see all parts as planned but that can be left for future weekends.
P.S. The »The red dragon will lead the way« title is the Cardiff moto. In Welsh it is »Y ddraig goch ddyry cychwyn«